Photograph of Occupational Therapist Suzie Beliveau at Squamish Physiotherapy pt Health

Occupational Therapist Spotlight: Suzie Beliveau

pt HealthSpotlight


Finding the right healthcare provider is hard, there are so many options that it can be hard to know where to start. Heathcare is such a personal and intimate thing that you want to be sure you’re picking a clinician that’s right for you and that you feel comfortable working with. That’s why we love doing clinician spotlights; they give us a chance to introduce our fantastic team members to the world, help patients discover new kinds of therapy and find their perfect practitioner.

Today we’re turning the spotlight on Suzie Beliveau, an Occupational Therapist at our Squamish Physiotherapy and Wellness Centre – pt Health. She tells us what makes her job so rewarding, when you might want to see an Occupational Therapist, and shares her favourite patient success story.

Can you tell us about your education?
I have a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from McGill University (BSc OT) as well as additional training and certifications in Fundamental of Anxiety interventions, Functional Capacity Evaluation, Assessment and Treatment of Cognitive Impairments in Adults, Ergonomic Assessments, splinting, and pain management.

Do you have an area of focus or special interest?
My area of special interest has to be ergonomics, functional assessments, return to work programs as well as disability and pain management (I explain a bit more about that later on). I used to only deal with physical injuries, but  I have recently expanded my focus. Lately, I have integrated care for mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders as well as brain injuries into my practice.

What is your Motto or Personal Mantra?
I have two, one is my personal mantra to “try to live the best of each day; no matter how it presents itself” and the other is “success is loving life and daring to live it.” – Maya Angelou

You are an occupational therapist, can you tell us a little bit about that?
I am a certified Occupational Therapist which means am a member of the College of Occupational Therapist in British Columbia (COTBC) and the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapist (CAOT).

I am often asked what exactly is Occupational Therapy (OT). My quick and simple answer is that the goal of OT is to help people be functional in their environment. The interventions or therapies that I use will vary a lot depending on the needs of each client (their occupational performance issues) and the environment being addressed. Each approach is tailored to clients’ needs and goals.

When would someone want to see an occupational therapist?
Occupational Therapy is a type of health care that helps to solve problems that interfere with a person’s ability to do the things that are important to them. You might want to see an OT if you are struggling to do everyday things like:

  • Self-care – getting dressed, eating, moving around your house
  • Being productive – going to work or school, participating in the community, running errands
  • Leisure activities – sports, gardening, social activities

What’s one thing about Occupational Therapy you wish everyone knew?
Occupational Therapy is a holistic approach that looks at physical, mental, and social barriers to function. I also want people to know that an OT will try to find out why you can’t do the tasks you want to do (or need to do) and work to fix it or at least improve your ability.

In trying to get to the root of your issue, an OT may check:

  • Your physical abilities like strength, balance, and coordination
  • Your mental abilities like memory, coping strategies, organizational skills
  • What materials or devices you use to participate in activities like furniture, utensils, tools or clothes
  • What social and emotional support is available to you at home, school, work or in the community, and
  • The physical setup of your house, classroom, workplace or other environments

What’s your average day like?
My work days vary. On the same day, I may be working with clients here in the gym at Squamish Physio, in a hotel/bank/Library assessing computer stations, and on a construction site providing guidelines for a graduated return to work.

I also provide injury prevention education sessions for various organizations, companies, and individuals both one-on-one and in a group setting. The sessions’ topics vary and may include information on ergonomics, body mechanics, lifting techniques, pain management, cumulative trauma, pacing, energy conservation etc.

I also spend a fair amount of time on a computer, emailing, writing reports and chart notes to keep client files up to date.

You perform functional assessments, worksite evaluations, ergonomic assessments, job demands analysis, can you tell us a bit about that and when a client might want it or request a clinician with this training?
That’s a big question; I’ll try to break it down.

Functional assessment measures a person’s level of function and ability to perform work-related tasks on a safe and dependable basis over a defined period. Data is collected during the assessment and analyzed to establish the worker’s current level of function and their ability to perform a variety of job tasks. The assessment includes:

  • An examination of pertinent clinical pathology
  • Identification of client behaviours that impact physical performance
  • Objective musculoskeletal, neuromuscular and biomechanical testing
  • Functional testing and
  • An assessment of effort

Functional assessments are used to determine what level of functioning is safe for the person to engage in. It is a helpful tool we use when a client is returning to work after an injury or if they require vocational retraining.

Worksite assessments may include an ergonomic assessment and/or job demands analysis. A job demands analysis (JDA) quantifies the job demands necessary to complete specific employment. It is typically used for jobs that require a large amount of physical exertion as it provides data that can be matched with a functional assessment to determine if a potential employee is fit and safe to return to a job or start a specific job.

An ergonomic assessment identifies ergonomic hazards in an environment. Ergonomics is about interactions between people and their physical and organizational contexts. The evaluation includes solutions and modifications on how a job can be performed to reduce stress and pain. An ergonomic assessment may be conducted in an office setting or on the field. Someone may request an ergonomic evaluation because they have pain or difficulties performing a specific task or to prevent an injury. For example, if you work in an office and experience wrist, arm, neck, or back pain I can access your workstation set-up and prescribe modifications to your workstation that will improve ergonomics and address the causes of your pain.

What is one of your favourite stories of how you helped a client?
A client was referred to me for a physical injury following a fall at work. She attended our OT rehabilitation program. Although her injury was physical, I focused my intervention on pain management and education on anxiety. At the end of the program, her ability to function had significantly improved and she had the tools to manage her pain instead of letting the pain manage her life. This recovery was only successful because I took a holistic approach to her treatment that included the multi-faceted aspects (physical and mental) impacting their recovery. It is very rewarding to see someone regaining control over their life after an injury!

What would you say to someone who is hesitant to try occupational therapy?
If you’re worried about cost, some extended health insurance plans include occupational therapy services as a benefit. If you live in British Columbia, you can also get coverage from Worksafe BC, ICBC, Veterans affairs and some long-term disability insurance. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and we can always check for you at the clinic if you call.

For anyone who’s never had occupational therapy, what can they expect at their first and subsequent visits?
It’s hard to give an exact answer as every OT service offered is customized to the individual needs and budget of a client. Typically, a client’s first OT appointment is used to assess their current condition. This may include an interview to identify the professional performance issues and make sure the interventions are centered on our client’s needs.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?
What makes me get up every morning is knowing that I may have a positive impact on someone else that day.


Find a clinic button that links to pt Health's find a clinic pageIf you are having problems completing everyday tasks or doing the things you love, find a clinic near you to speak with an Occupational Therapist who can help.


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